SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP)—One dominating stretch in the second quarter turned out to be enough to carry the Boston Celtics to a win in their first West Coast game this season.
Coach Doc Rivers knows his team will need to play more complete games to beat some of the elite Western Conference teams on the road.
Paul Pierce scored 14 of his 16 points during a 33-5 second-quarter run that led the Celtics to their first win in Sacramento in more than 11 years, an 89-69 victory over the Kings on Wednesday night.
Boston has won 12 of 13 games, but the early season success has been attributed to a soft schedule as well as the offseason additions of Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to a lineup that had relied primarily on Pierce in recent years.
The Celtics played just their 11th road game of the season Wednesday and first against a team in the Western Conference. They have three more in the next four days of this trip, including Allen’s return to Seattle on Thursday and weekend games at Utah and the Los Angeles Lakers.
“If we play like we played in the first half I’m fine with being on the road,” Rivers said. “If we play like we did in the second half the road can be long. We just have to do a better job of executing on both ends. I thought in the third quarter we stopped scoring and then we stopped defending too.”
The NBA-leading Celtics (23-3) started slowly, scoring just 18 points in the opening quarter and trailing by four early in the second. That’s when they found their groove, closing the half on the big run to go up 53-29.
Instead of coasting from there, the Celtics lost their shooting touch at halftime. They missed their first seven shots in the third quarter as the Kings went on a 14-1 run to cut the Boston lead to 11.
Allen led the way with 17 points and Garnett added 14 points and 10 rebounds for the Celtics, who had lost 11 straight at Arco Arena since Feb. 16, 1996. Pierce had been a part of nine of those losses.
“It’s the only building I probably hadn’t won in in my whole NBA career,” Pierce said. “I got that off my back now.”
Sacramento got within five points early in the fourth quarter when Ron Artest scored off an offensive rebound before Eddie House and James Posey hit consecutive 3-pointers to start an 8-0 run that put the Celtics back in control.
It was a chippy game with the Celtics getting called for two technicals and the Kings committing many hard fouls.
“I got poked in the eye twice tonight and I got elbowed in the head,” Garnett said. “It’s part of the game. I could tell they were a little edgy. Some of their guys were out of character doing some of the things they were doing. I guess they were doing whatever they thought they had to do to win this game.”
Artest scored 15 points to lead Sacramento. John Salmons added 13 and Francisco Garcia had 12 for the Kings, who scored 27 points in the third quarter but just 42 in the other three. Sacramento shot 38.2 percent in their lowest scoring game of the season.
“We can try to analyze this all you want but we did not play well, they played well and we’re not good enough to sustain something like that,” Kings coach Reggie Theus said.
The Celtics started the big second-quarter run by scoring nine straight points in a 58-second span, getting a three-point play from Allen and consecutive 3-pointers from House to go back up by five.
That’s when Pierce took over. After going scoreless in the first 17 minutes of the game, Pierce scored 14 points in the final 7 minutes of the half, hitting his third 3-pointer in the final minute to make it 53-29.
As well as Boston shot that quarter, hitting six of 10 3-pointers, they were even tougher on the defensive end, forcing 12 turnovers and limiting Sacramento to 32.4 percent shooting in their best defensive first half of the season.
The Kings missed 10 of their final 11 shots in the half, with their only basket in the final 9 minutes coming on a jumper by Salmons with 5:24 left.
“We were ready but things didn’t go our way tonight,” Garcia said. “I don’t think it was their defense. We were just careless.”
Garnett moved past Walter Davis (19,521) for 36th place on the all-time scoring list. Garnett has 19,527 points. … Sacramento’s previous low came in a 90-78 loss at Boston. … AL Rookie of the Year Dustin Pedroia watched from courtside and was given a Kings jersey with his name. Pedroia, who grew up in nearby Woodland but plays for the Boston Red Sox, did not wear the jersey.